9 Simple Ways to Shorten Your Workout and Spend Less Time in the Gym

How Long Should I Spend in the Gym?

This is the third installment of the Time Hack Series- where we teach you practical strategies that you can implement into your busy schedule to save time and increase your fitness.

In Part 1, 5 Useful Ways to Eat More and Increase Your Metabolism we teach you how to increase your nutrient intake during a busy day.

In Part 2, Healthy Meal Prep Basics: A Step By Step Guide For Busy Individuals, we break down the strategies we use to always have healthy meals on the go.

Today we will talk about exercise.

Taking time out of your day to exercise can be a very difficult task. There simply isn't a lot of free time when you have an 80 hour work week.

What if I told you that you can shorten your workout and achieve great results while spending less time at the gym?

The key is to design effective exercise programs that can be done in 30-35 minutes a day.

I know what you're thinking, how can you possibly get a meaningful training session in 30 minutes?



This post is going to cover:

  • 9 tips to help you get a great workout in under 35 minutes and enjoy all of the benefits of resistance training.
  • No BS


1. Don't Dilly Dally

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making at the gym is wasting time. 

Far too often, there are many individuals at the gym chatting with their friends, discussing the latest TV show, or last nights sporting event, or worst of all, politics.

They are doing everything except what they are supposed to be doing during this sacred time.

It's like the gym has become a social hour and the local hang out for many people. 


The gym is not a pub. You should be there for one reason only!

Do not get into the habit of making conversation during your rest breaks either.

Your rest periods should be anywhere from 90 seconds to 3 minutes. You'll be shocked at how quickly three minutes can go by when you are chatting it up.

Don't be afraid to tell your friends that you are on the clock and that you cannot chat.

Go to the gym with a purpose, stop wasting your time and everyone else’s.


2. Electronics Can Hinder Your Fitness 

Another common mistake people make at the gym is being glued to their phone. 

If it’s not wasting time dilly-dallying with friends at the gym, it’s with their virtual friends on the phone.  

I've seen people start a long-winded conversation in the middle of their workout. I’ve also seen people going back-and-forth sending text messages for 10 minutes straight!

This is a major distraction and significantly increases the time that you are spending at the gym. 

It should go without saying that you should always have your phone with you in the case of an emergency, but stop checking your emails and chatting when you are exercising.



3. Be Strategic with the Exercises You Perform First

When it comes to actual program design, it is important to put the most important and the most difficult exercises first. 

This way you are prioritizing the highest yield exercises and concentrating on the movements that will give you the biggest return on your investment. 

If you have to cut your workout even shorter than 30 minutes, at least you focused on the majors and NOT the minors

Don't go to the gym to perform bicep curls and then leave.

The exercises that should be done first in your program are the large compound functional exercises that mimic real-world movements.


Check out The Best Workout Template for Busy Professionals to find a good example of a program that focuses on the most important exercises.

This brings us to the next point.


4. Only Use The Most Effective Exercises 

When designing your training program, use as many compound exercises as possible. This way you are training multiple muscle groups simultaneously. This will decrease the total number of exercises you need to do. 

Major compound exercises train 3 or 4 muscles while minor compound exercises train 1-2 muscle groups at once. 

Minimize strict isolation exercises, the ones that only train one muscle group at a time, such as bicep curls, leg extensions, and tricep extensions.


(While biceps look good, they won’t save you time nor improve your fitness)


5. Super- Set Secondary Exercises

The next thing that you can do when it comes to program design and efficiency is what the fitness industry calls super-sets. 

Supersets are a combination of two exercises that are done in sequence- one right after the other, instead of performing multiple sets of one exercise before moving on to the next.

Supersets save time because you can train the second exercise while you are resting the muscles of the first. This will minimize the overall rest periods that you need to take. 

Obviously, it is best to use exercises that do not interfere with each other. 

A good example is a squat variation immediately followed by a press.

Goblet Squat and Dumbbell Overhead Press



One strategy is to perform one major exercise, followed by super-setting the remainder of the exercises for the day.

Another strategy is to perform multiple circuits of supersets as your entire training session.


6. Minimize the Use of Unilateral Exercises 

On the same note, minimize the number of exercises that require you to train one side of the body individually. This is especially true on the upper body exercises. While they provide functionality, they significantly increase the amount of time per exercise.

The only exception is unilateral single leg training. Single leg exercises are very beneficial as they often portray real-life body positions.



Here are some examples:

* Split Squat

* Lunge

* Step Up


7. Use Time Restrictions on Your Exercises

Another useful technique that you can implement to shorten your workout is a time restriction. This means putting a strict time limit for each exercise(s) that you are performing.

For example, you should only spend 15 minutes per exercise. Once the timer goes off, you must move on to the next exercise.

Disclaimer: This advice does not apply to someone trying to compete at a high level.

For the general population trying to improve their health and fitness, 15 minutes per exercise will be sufficient.



8. Use Time Restrictions on Your Rest Periods

Also, set a timer for the rest periods you are taking in between each set. You should take no longer than 1.5 to 3 minute rest periods in between each set. 

The heavier the weight, the longer the rest period.

Studies have also shown that muscle growth (aka hypertrophy) can be stimulated from taking shorter rest periods. 

Ensure that you enforce these time limits. Your body will become more efficient and perform more work in less time.


9.  HIIT It

If all else fails, you can utilize High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to spend even less time at the gym.

We have already discussed the many benefits of HIIT, as well as a few methods of implementing it at A Superior Form Of Cardio For Weight Loss [The 15 Minute Workout].


Basically, it involves using different types of exercises in a very quick, intense manner with minimal rest periods.

The beauty of it all is that HIIT sessions could be done in as little as 10 minutes a day! 

If you enjoy HIIT style workouts, 3x a week could be sufficient in achieving significant improvements in your overall health and fitness.

At the minimum, incorporate one HIIT session per week. 



Final Words on Workout Shortcuts for Maximum Fitness Efficiency

So there you have it. These are the tips and tricks that we have successfully used to train for 30 minutes every day, despite working 16-hour workdays and 80 hour work weeks.  

Do not get into the trap of spending countless time in the gym in an effort to get fit.

Be smart, Train smart and Do it efficiently.


The treadmill is not your friend.

Are you struggling just to find time to workout? Learn a few ways to do so at Making Time for Exercise when You Work 16 Hrs a Day.

Do you have any strategies to add to this list? How long do your workouts normally take?

What about warming up? The last installment of the time hack series will teach you an efficient warm up to perform at the beginning of every workout: A Simplistic 5-Minute Warm Up Routine To Keep You Limber



Post your comments and questions below.  

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Alex & Brittany Robles are the founders of The White Coat Trainer, a site dedicated to improving the health and wellness of busy individuals. Learn more about them here and connect with them on instagram and Twitter. Feel free to send them a message here